Being in a touring band comes with many perks. You get to explore the world, meet cool folks and play your music for ears across the globe. It also comes with a lot of, well, not so fun things. As John McCauley of Deer Tick told us of his favorite shorts, “They are incredibly comfortable, unlike touring.”
And that’s the thing. Touring is necessary for bands, but it’s not always so comfy. That’s why we went to 10 of our favorite touring acts and asked what they simply can’t tour without, no matter the inevitable cramped quarters, long drives and time restraints. And from “boots of danger” to audio books and art supplies, they filled us in.
Take a look at what your favorite bands consider must haves for tour here (quirky photos included).
Photo courtesy of Phox
1. Skirt – Unless you’re catching me in the middle of a long drive, there’s a 95% chance I’ll be wearing a skirt that sits at the natural waist. I have about six of them, this one I got at an AQ/AQ sample sale in London.
2. Boots – I have a small collection of western boots, but because I’m usually in black this pair that I found at a thrift store is always with me.
3. Urban Decay’s Supersaturated Lip Color in ‘Punch Drunk’ – I needs me a high-pigment orange-red lip in the summertime. Haha.
4. Shwoods Sunnies – I fell in love with these sunglasses made of teak and oak, by Shwoods, and they’ve saved my corneas on many days.
5. Big Sexy Hair’s ‘Backcomb in a Bottle’ – Because my ex-hairdressing ass loves some huge hair… and the likelihood of me being quite flammable makes me feel DANGEROUS.
Photo courtesy of Deer Tick
1. MSM Pills – My hair is thinning in the front, and that is just not natural for a rock n’ roller!
2. Shaving Kit – Badger hair brush by Art of Shaving, DOVO hanging strop, DOVO straight razor. It’s fun to pamper myself about once a week if I can find the time. Straight razor shaving feels pretty zen. It puts me in a good head space.
3. Remembering the Kanji by James Heisig – I’ve found this book to be very helpful for self-studying Japanese. Heisig uses storytelling at first to help you remember the keyword and stroke order for each character, then he encourages you to use your imagination more as you progress through the book.
4. Wedding Ring – Sorry ladies. (Pictured)
5. My ugly golf shorts by Duck Head – They are incredibly comfortable, unlike touring. (Pictured)
Photo courtesy of Midlake
1. Ray-Ban Sunglasses – A wise man once said, “the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades”. Another wise man said, “I wear my sunglasses at night so I can, so I can…”. Although respectively correct, I wear mine to avoid damage and discomfort caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. And to look cool. Hey, don’t switch the blade on the guy in shades… oh no.
2. Dakine Travel Bag – Have you ever been amongst a crowd at the airport baggage claim waiting for your bag to come out of on conveyor belt, and felt a bit embarrassed to claim it due to it’s look, feel, and function? Well not me, I have a Dakine and it’s bad ass.
3. Helm Boots – Not only are Helm Boots made for walking, they’re also made for dancing, strutting, skipping, meandering, carousing, moseying, and many other things. I hope these great boots will find your feet and do one of these things ‘all over you’ like they have me.
4. Ben Sherman – If I ever meet Ben, I plan to tell him thank you. For kindly outfitting us, yes, but mainly for designing clothing that literally makes you inherently cooler by simply wearing. It’s like a super hero’s cape or something.
5. Nudie Jeans – I know what you’re thinking: “isnt nudie spelled ‘nudey’?” These jeans have literally formed to the DNA of my lower half and believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
Photo courtesy of Portugal. The Man.
1. North Face Purple Label Field Coat – I’ll wear this anytime, rain or shine. Best outer gear in the world. Alaska shit.
2. Billy Kirk Black Leather Carryall and Custom Trailblazers Tour Pass – These guys make simply amazing leather and canvas products. Everyone in the band has custom belts, wallets and bags. They make all our tour passes as well. Dear friends of ours.
3. Sol Deck Wireless Speaker – Gotta have portable tunes. Learning last minute covers in the green room, or hotel room parties. It’s a must. This company is very good to us. Always hooking us up with the dope shit.
4. OP-1 Synthesizer by Teenage Engineering – Small and powerful. This little thing creates some huge sounds. Unbelievably detailed control and futuristic design.
5. The Hill-Side Chino Twill Low Top Sneakers – These guys are always on point. Making something new and unique from classic styles. We’re big fans.
6. Raen Sunglasses – Rad new shades. These keep us looking cool as fuck.
7. Unis. Davis trousers – Quality fucking pants. Always down to rep the pleats. Classic.
8. Folk Clothing Nico Jacket – Love this label. Unique and innovative designs pushing the envelope on style. Also more pocket room than I’ve ever seen on anything ever.
Photo courtesy of Tokyo Police Club
1. An acoustic guitar of some type – Transport yourself away from the smell of Clorox and the clanging of soundcheck with this handy device! Clubs in the afternoon are not pleasant places, having something to strum helps a lot.
2. My Boots of Danger – Rain or shine, hot or cold. Can’t fit all the appropriate footwear in a suitcase so I wear these Blundstones a LOT.
3. Big Headphones – I prefer these to my in-ears, I use them when I’m making demos so they feel familiar and comfy to me.
4. Healthy Snacks – I just got into KIND bars, they’re so good! Especially useful when you’re driving through the land of Doritos and Cinnabon, a.k.a. Middle of Nowhere U.S.A.
5. “Show Shirt” – I’ve worn this shirt on stage pretty much every show since the record came out. A band tradition since you can only bring so many on tour. You can’t go sweating buckets into a different one each night. Save the clean ones for the day and wear your favourite stink bomb on stage every night.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Dog
1. Guayaki Yerba Mate – Yerba Mate is the caffeinated lifeblood that fuels champions. I’ve seen Scott McMicken (singer/guitarist of Dr. Dog) drink as many as five cans of Guayaki Yerba before a regular club show. We’ve been very supportive of the yerba cause ever since we tried it for the first time at High Sierra Festival in Quincy, CA. They’re a great company that also helps restore the rain forests, as yerba mate is a shade-grown root. It also helps us jump higher, or at least play songs 20 bpm faster.
2. A shitty acoustic guitar – You need to have a shitty acoustic guitar to throw around the van or bus. At some point, a fellow bandmate is going to ask you to play a rendition of “Possum Kingdom” at 2AM, the tune you’ve been perfecting for years in your bedroom (this is obviously very personal). It’s also great to noodle on a shitty guitar all day while you hurry up and wait for soundcheck. You might even write a song. The tedium of touring becomes much more bearable with a shitty guitar, and it can prevent you from constantly staring down into the abyss of your smartphone.
3. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – I’m probably going to catch a lot of flak for saying this, but I love self-help/Zen audio books. I’ll usually bring one with me, perhaps Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind or something of that ilk. My personal favorite is The Power of Now cassette, because you can pretty much go to any point and receive a heavy dosage of reality. Touring can be difficult sometimes, especially when you’re away from people that you care about. Having a healthy reminder that your family/friends forgive you for making this bizarre life choice can really help you get through the grumblier days.
4. Art Supplies – For me, the desire to be creative completely dissipates when you’re on the road. I go into survival mode and make sure I’m staying hydrated and eating healthy and not crapping my pants. However, I’ve found that having paint/markers/crayons is helpful for getting ideas out. Sometimes I draw dreams that I’ve had, things I’ve seen, or just absurd things that pop into my mind. Then I’ll post it on the internet and wait for people to validate my impossibly sad drawings of ALF.
5. The Big Lebowski Special Edition Blu-Ray – Last year we did a tour with The Lumineers and I started to go a little stir crazy. It was a wonderful tour, but we spent a lot of time parked in one place – usually near a Wal-Mart or Pilot truck stop or an arena backlot. I watched the Big Lebowski every day for six weeks during this time period. I’d like to think that I was trying to be more like The Dude during this terrific and turbulent period of my life. Sometimes I was a little bit more like Walter, but rarely was I as zen as Donny. I’d wake up at 10AM and put it on without even thinking about it. Chicken Soup for Dude-Age Soul, comfort food. It’s one of the few movies I can watch and say every line. It might be the best movie of all time.
Photo courtesy of The Whigs
1. 18” Duffel – Lately, I’ve been digging traveling light. This concise duffel leaves no room for excess.
2. Polaroid “Impulse” – Polaroids are fun. Got this thing around New Year’s and have been hooked.
3. Cellular Telephone with Gorilla Hologram – The gorilla hologram scares away potential phone thieves.
4. Parlor Guitar – This is a one of a kind, German parlor guitar from the late 19 century. Fits nicely into overhead bins. A trusty travel companion.
5. Baseball Glove – You never know when the inspiration for a game of catch might arise. Best to keep the glove handy.
Photo courtesy of Band of Skulls
1. Decent Sunglasses – For early mornings and long afternoons.
2. Tea Making Facility – Or coffee if not.
3. Lomo Camera – For photos you forget you’ve taken. And plenty of extra film.
4. Random Fan Art – This one is a pencil drawing from Rome.
5. Tour Book – This is the bible. Thankfully we’re near the end.
Photo courtesy of St. Paul and the Broken Bones
1. Mexican Coke – It’s always refreshing because it has real sugar in it as opposed to American coke. It reminds me of my childhood.
2. Duffman Comics – Who doesn’t love Duffman and Simpsons comics? C’mon man.
3. White Antonio Cerrelli Leather Shoes – Best $15 I ever spent in Columbus, GA. They’re great to dance in.
4. Birmingham Barons – Triple a baseball team. I gotta represent Birmingham and it’s a little piece of home I carry with me.
5. Entertainers Secret Throat Relief – Shhhh, don’t tell anybody! It’s a secret.
Photo courtesy of The Cold and Lovely
1. Capturing Couture Guitar Straps – We LOVE these guitar straps. Their designs are awesome and they are really well made and comfortable. We get a lot of compliments wherever we go. (Nicole & Meg)
2. MAC Makeup – MAC has the best makeup for onstage and off! The colors are long lasting and don’t smudge against my microphone, which is usually a big problem for me. I wouldn’t take any other kind of makeup on the road. (Nicole)
3. iLoud by IK Multimedia – This speaker is so cool. It’s a studio quality monitor that’s wireless. You can actually plug a guitar or mic into it as well so it’s perfect for practicing in the dressing room or checking out a mix. (Meg)
4. Wellness Formula – This stuff is magic. It’s seriously saved me so many times from getting sick on tour. Must have. (Meg)
5. Black “Show” Boots – I’ve been wearing these vintage boots on stages for nigh on 14 years. They are extremely road worn and I’ve had to get them fixed several times. I will never give up on them! (Nicole)